Archive for January, 2014

Stranie experienta este revederea unui film la jumatate de secol (sau aproape) de la prima vizionare. Cand ‘Becket’ a aparut pe ecranele romanesti trebuie sa fi fost 1964 (anul producerii filmului) sau 1965. Memoria afectiva si selectiva a pastrat in special figura lui Becket si a lui Richard Burton despre a carui cariera eram deja constient pe deplin in acea perioada. Pe Peter O’Toole nu cred ca nu il cunosteam inca bine, sau in orice caz nu imi era inca suficient de clara statura lui.  Din motive pe care numai cenzura acelor vremuri le cunoaste piosul film despre Sfantul Thomas Becket a fost adus pe ecranele Romaniei comuniste, dar cel dedicat eroului cauzei nationale arabe ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ nu. Probabil  ca abia in ‘The Man of La Mancha’ mi-a fost clar ce actor urias este O’Toole. Liniile principale ale conflictului dintre regele Henric al II-lea si episcopul de Canterbury imi erau insa de atunci clare si mi le-am amintit si atunci cand jumatate de viata mai tarziu am ajuns la Canterbury si am pasit pe dalele candva patate de sangele Sfantului Thomas.

 

sursa www.imdb.com/title/tt0057877/

sursa www.imdb.com/title/tt0057877/

 

Bazat pe o piesa a lui Jean Anouilh ‘Becket’ a fost intai un succes pe Broadway (cu Lawrence Olivier si Anthony Quinn in rolurile principale) si apoi in West End unde Eric Porter si Christopher Plummer au jucat in regia lui Peter Hall. Peter Grenville, regizorul versiunii americane si-a asumat apoi si rolul de regizor al filmului realizat in legendarele studiouri Shepperton din Anglia. In mare masura ‘Becket’ urmeaza traditia ecranizarilor marilor drame istorice shakespeariene, cu deosebirea ca textul lui Jean Anhouilh pune in balanta conflictul istoric cu povestea unei pasionate prietenii intre doi mari barbati care si-au impartit scena istoriei din perioada in care au trait.

La aproape o suta de ani dupa invazia normanda clasa stapanitoare a Angliei continua sa se afle in conflict cu saxonii invadati. Pentru Anhouilh dimensiunea politica a textului este clara, piesa fiind scrisa si pusa in scena pentru prima data la Paris la 15 ani de la eliberarea Frantei si sfarsitul perioadei de colaborare cu ocupantii germani. Reprezinta Thomas Becket in viziunea lui Anhouil o transcedentare dusa pana la absolvire a actului de colaborare cu ocupantii atunci cand se stie ca rezistenta violenta nu poate duce la mai mult decat o moarte eroica? Dilema aceasta este prezenta mai ales in prima parte a piesei si filmului, treptat conflictele religios si personal dintre cei doi trec in primul plan. In planul personal Becket pare a fi facut din materialul din care sunt facuti martirii, dar din punct de vedere istoric dreptatea este de partea regelui Henric. Centralizarea statala si aplicarea principiilor de drept tuturor cetatenilor sunt fenomene istorice care vor prevala in deceniile care vor urma si vor forma bazele primei constitutii scrise de facto din istoria Europei. Sangele varsat la Canterbury, reconcilierea si penitenta asumata de rege vor cimenta natiunea engleza si vor reglementa raportul de forte intre regatul si biserica Angliei.

 

(video source warren12401)

 

Precum multe alte superproductii istorice ale epocii in ‘Becket’ emotioneaza astazi alte lucruri decat cele care ii faceau sa vibreze pe spectatorii de acum jumatate de secol. Exactitatea reconstituirii istorice a fost perfectionata in multe alte productii care au urmat, in schimb niciuna nu a adus pe acelasi ecran doi mari actori ai istoriei filmului in momentele lor de maxima intensitate. Burton se afla la apogeul carierei sale, unul dintre ultimele sale mari roluri inainte de a intra pe panta dezabuzarii (in rolurile de pe ecran si in viata). Indraznesc sa spun insa ca in afara de faptul ca ochii sai sunt mai albastri decat ai lui Peter O’Toole, acesta il depaseste cam in toate aspectele si regele Henric supravietuieste mult mai bine celor 50 de ani de prezenta pe ecran adaugati la 800 de ani de istorie. In timp ce personajul Becket evolueaza monoton si previzibil de la nationalism saxon spre sfintenie personajul regelui Henric se convulsioneaza intre incredere oarba in prietenie, dezamagire in fata a ceea ce el percepe a fi tradare, neintelegere a motivelor si motivarii actiunilor prietenului sau, machiavelism si fariseism. O’Toole creaza cu pasiune si cruzime un personaj al carui cinism are toate motivatiile psihologice pentru faptele pe care le comite. Scena finala include in ea premizele impacarii dintre stat si biserica, prin actiunea sa de aparenta penitenta si de sanctificare ipocrita a celui a carui moarte o ordonase regele Henric pune bazele subordonarii bisericii Angliei fata de coroana. Raportul de forte dintre cele doua personaje se rastoarna in istorie.

It’s a strange experience re-viewing a movie half a century (or almost) after the first viewing. When ‘ Becket ‘ appeared on the Romanian screens the year must have been 1964 (the year the film production ) or 1965. My emotional and selective memory kept the character of Becket and the image of Richard Burton about whose career I was already fully aware that time. I did not know Peter O’Toole well yet, or in any case I was not aware enough of his stature. For reasons that only censorship in Romania at that time knows that film about pious Saint Thomas Becket was brought to screens, but the one about the hero dedicated to the Arab national cause ‘Lawrence of Arabia‘ was not. It’s probably only after I saw ‘ Man of La Mancha ‘ that I understood what a huge actor O’Toole was. The main lines of the conflict between King Henry II and the Bishop of Canterbury were clear to me, and I remembered them when half a life later we visited Canterbury and I stepped onto the tiles once stained with the blood of St. Thomas.

 

    source www.imdb.com/title/tt0057877/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0057877/

 

Based on a play by Jean Anouilh ‘Becket’ was first a hit on Broadway (with Lawrence Olivier and Anthony Quinn in the lead roles) and then in the West End where Eric Porter and Christopher Plummer played directed by Peter Hall. Peter Grenville, the director of the American version assumed the task of directing the film produced at the legendary Shepperton Studios in England.  ‘Becket’ is a historical drama that largely follows the tradition of the great Shakespearean adaptation, however, the text of Jean Anhouilh balances the historical conflict with the story of a passionate friendship between two great men who have shared the stage history of the period in which they lived.

Almost a hundred years after the invasion of England, the Norman ruling class continues to be in conflict with the invaded Saxons. For Anhouilh the political dimension of the text is clear, the play was written and first staged in Paris 15 years of the liberation of France and the end of the collaboration with the German occupiers. Does Thomas Becket ‘s vision represents an absolution carried by Anhouil of the act of collaboration with the occupiers, in a situation when they know that violent resistance can lead to nothing but a heroic death? This dilemma is present mainly in the first part of the play and the film gradually shits its focus to the religious and personal conflicts between the two main characters. Becket’s character seems to be made ​​of the material of which martyrs are made, but historical righteousness is actually on King Henry’s side. Centralization of state and the principles of equality in face of the law of all citizens are historical phenomena that will prevail in the coming decades and will form the basis of the first written constitution in European history. Blood spilled in Canterbury , reconciliation and penance undertaken by king will cement the English nation and will define the balance of powers between the Kingdom and the Church of England.

 

(video source warren12401)

 

Like many historical blockbusters of the time ‘Becket’ touches today in places other than the ones that resonated with the audiences half a century ago. The accuracy of the historical reconstruction has been perfected in many other productions that followed, on the other hand none brought on the same screen two great actors in film history at their maximum intensity. Burton was at the peak of his career, this was one of his last major roles before entering the descending slope (in roles on screen and in life). I dare say though that besides the fact that Burton’s eyes are more blue, Peter O’Toole surpasses him in almost all aspects and King Henry survives better than 50 years of life on the screen added to the 800 years of history. While Becket’s character evolves from Saxon nationalism to predictable holiness, King Henry is torn between blind faith in friendship, disappointment in the face of what he perceives to be betrayal, misunderstanding of the reasons and motivation of the actions of his friend, Machiavellianism and Pharisaism . O’Toole created with passion and cruelty a character whose cynicism includes all the psychological motivations for the acts they commit. The final scene includes the premises of reconciliation between state and church, by the King act of  apparent penance and hypocrite sanctification of the man whose death King Henry ordered, leading to the subordination of the  Church of England to the Crown. The balance of power between the two characters turned upside down in history.

Un ballo in Maschera has a very convoluted history. Created in the years that preceded the unification and independence of Italy, the opera was originally written as a regicide plot based on the historical facts of the assassination of king Gustav III of Sweden in the 17th century. The very fact that a king was supposed to be assassinated on stage made the opera unpalatable for the censorship in Austrian-occupied Venezia, in the Bourbon kingdom of Napoli and in the church-dominated Rome. Three re-writings later the opera eventually premiered in 1858 on the very eve of the revolutionary movements that led to the creation of Italy, but it was now a completely different story. The historical drama with revolutionary hints turned into a passionate and tragic love triangle story with the national elements eliminated and the political allusions very deeply buried in the subtext. Polish director Micha Znaniecki tried in the production now staged at the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv to recover the political dimensions and I have mixed feelings about the result.

 

source http://www.israel-opera.co.il/Eng/

source http://www.israel-opera.co.il/Eng/

 

The cast at the current Israeli production has basically two teams, and I was lucky enough to be present at the first performance of the ‘Romanian cast’. All three lead roles were sung by singers from Romania. Baritone Ionut Pascu already sang in Tel Aviv, he may not have impressive natural skills but his voice is expressive and carefully dosed and he was a fine Renato. Soprano Mirela Gradinaru was also a guest and lead singer on the Tel Aviv stage before and on this occasion she succeeded a more than honorable version of Ammelia. Best of all was however tenor Cristian Mogosan who faced with bravery and success the role of Riccardo which was mastered in the past by names as great as Domingo or Pavarotti. He was without any doubt the star of the evening. Shiri Hershkovitz also had a remarkable and creative performance as Oscar the page. She is born in Israel, but her name may also be of Romanian origin :-)

 

(video source IsraeliOpera)

 

These were the good news. The very bad news was the orchestra, and I need to mention Italian conductor Daniele Calegari who ‘succeeded’ to get the worst of an orchestra which I confess did not earn too much respect from me in the last 20 plus years since I have to follow it. When it was not stridently loud it hardly could be heard. The overture was one of the less inspired opening pieces I heard lately. The musicians seemed bored after the first three accords.

The staging was controversial at best in my opinion. Yes, I know the history of the opera but there is too little political content in the text and especially in the music to justify the explicit statements made by the staging. Big statues of dictators seem to be the fashion of the year or of the years on opera stages in Europe, but the disconnect between the music and what happened on stage was huge. Yes, decors were (again) spectacular, and the costumes were inspired as well (the team that created those is Polish). Opera is however – at least in my opinion – first of all about music, not about staging. Not even the Romanian team of singers obliged to perform in such unsettling environment could save the evening.

 

 

 

One of the best thing Hollywood makes is films about Hollywood. Some may judge these movies like kind of acts of self-adulation, but the fact is that films dedicated to films making and even homage films about past stars and directors resulted into many remarkable creations from the classical Sunset Boulevard to recent films like Hitchcock  to remember just the one recent film in the genre I happen to remember now. These films have in common a dose of nostalgia for the times past and a lot of respect for the creators who preceded them. Even when they contain a dose of critical nuances or they describe disputable characters in the history of American film making like is the case with Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood they still carry a dose of reverence and fraternity across the generation. All this is very visible in this film of Burton which is almost hard to believe that was made 20 years ago, so fresh and contemporary it looks. In Burton’s filmography it may be one of the less ‘rebelious’ movies, yet it contains its dose of inventiveness and the sure mastering the skills of film making.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/

 

Ed Wood (the real character) was – arguably – the ‘worst director’ in the history of film-making. There are certainly many great contenders to Wood for this title. Most of the IMDB ratings for his movies range between 3 and 4, with a deep dive to 2.2 and a stellar 6.2 for one of his latest films. Yet Burton’s film shows him as a man of passion, and a fighter with the system and the big studios sharks (BTW – I am waiting for a great film about Hollywood producers!). One of the scenes to remember in the film is the one of the meeting of Wood with Orson Welles.  The (problematic) message of the scene is that all directors – genius or trash – had to fight the same problems and the same system. The difference between them is of course that one had a huge talent, the other had just a daring character and a charming personality that allows us to sympathize with him while he is following and partly achieving his dream of creating trash on screens.

 

(video source thecultbox)

 

It does help of course that the lead role is played by Johnny Depp, the permanent fetish leading star of Burton.  He is rendering the character of Wood in its whole complexity, oddity, tenacity and charm. It is however the splendid re-enacting of Bela Lugosi by Martin Landau that caught my full attention.  A great star of the horror-fantasy movies of the 30s, Bela Lugosi  was all but forgotten, in poverty and sunk in drug addiction when Ed Wood re-discovered him in the 50s and allowed him a few last presences in his films. Ed Wood the movie is to a large extent the story of the friendship between the two men. Filming in black and white also gives style and quality to the film, and reminds us that The Artist  may have rediscovered the silent film, but not the black and white movies. If Ed Wood did not create any quality on screen during his activity in Hollywood he has at least inspired a film which is much better than anything he made as a director.

 

Acum cateva zile m-am jucat cu posibilitatile de afisare a statusului pe Facebook si am descoperit capacitatea de a anunta omenirii ce carte citesc. La citirea mesajului meu despre lectura romanului ‘Piazza Bucarest’ al scriitorului danez Jens Christian Grindahl (aparut in seria Actual a colectiei ‘Biblioteca Polirom’, editura Polirom, 2013) am primit aproape instantaneu intrebarea ‘de ce?’ Chiar, de ce am ales sa citesc acum o carte a unui scriitor danez, prima pentru mine daca nu am uitat ceva, de la basmele lui Andersen incoace? Raspunsul este ca m-a interesat subiectul pentru ca este o carte scrisa de un ‘strain’ in care este vorba (si) despre Romania anilor 80 pe care am trait-o, Apoi m-am informat putin despre scriitor si am aflat ca este unul dintre scriitorii danezi cei mai apreciati, si cum nu citisem nimic scris de el pana acum am hotarit sa o citesc. Nu am gresit.

‘Piazza Bucarest’ descrie intalnirea a doua lumi prin intermediul a doua personaje principale care traiesc o relatie care incepe ca o aparenta casatorie de convenienta la sfarsitul anilor 80 care permite unei romance evadarea din Romania ‘Epocii de Aur’. Scott este american, tatal vitreg al povestitorului la persoana intai a cartii. Ajuns in prima tinerete in Europa sfarsitului anior 60, din nevinovata America a generatiei lui Bee Gees si Beach Boys, Scott devine aproape fara vointa sa dezertor, nedorind sa dea curs ordinului de incorporare pentru Vietnam care il urmareste departe de casa. O cunoaste, se casatoreste, si apoi se desparte de mama povestitorului, dar ramane legat tocmai de acesta printr-o legatura de prietenie care supravietuieste deceniilor si relatiilor diferite ale celor doi cu femeile din viata lor. Fotograf de meserie calatoreste in toata lumea, destinul aducandu-l in a doua parte a deceniului opt in Romania unde o cunoaste pe Elena. Frumoasa si inteligenta, aceasta pare una dintre multele romance care cautau disperat o iesire din viata amorfa si cenusie a deceniului final al dictaturii.

‘Era evident ca e indragostita, nu de el, cu toate ca se comporta ca atare, cu privirile ei pline de inteles si zambetul misterios. Ea era indragostita de ceasul lui si de tot ce credea si visa ea ca reprezinta el.’ (pag.43)

 

sursa www.hyperliteratura.ro

sursa www.hyperliteratura.ro

 

Vor trebui sa treaca cativa ani pana cand americanul rebel fata constrangerile societatii dar cu un temperament care il face sa fie condus si dominat in relatii, si fiul sau nascut in Damenarca cea toleranta incep sa inteleaga sau cred ca incep sa inteleaga ceva din personalitatea femeii care ii fascineaza la inceput doar prin tineretea si prezenta ei fizica, traumele si jocurile duble pe care aceasta a trebuit sa le accepte pentru a supravietui Romaniei, si motivele care au determinat-o sa incerce sa-si paraseasca tara cu orice pret.

‘Crescuse intr-o lume de neicredere si frica si simultan se adaptase si opusese rezistenta. Avea un loc de munca la Ministerul Turismului, se obisnuise sa fie urmarita de aproape de un agent de Securitate, si in acelasi timp isi dezvoltase propriul eu in cercul mason de germeni artistici care se ajutau unul pe celalalt pentru a-si face exilul interior sa semene cu o viata. Asta o despicase pe ea in doua, in cea adaptata si cea rezistenta, si viata dubla corodase legatura dintre eul ei si lume.’   (pag. 94)

Cele cateva zeci de pagini care descriu calatoria lui Scott in Romania, intalnirea cu Elena si cu anturajul prietenilor ei, atmosfera apasatoare a anilor de dictatura sunt dupa parerea mea cele mai reusite ale intregii carti. Nu stiu exact care i-au fost sursele de informare, daca Jens Christian Grondhal a vizitat Romania in acea perioada, sau daca a discutat indelung cu romani exilati sau romani care au trait in tara in acea perioada, dar tot ceea ce scrie este exact si autentic pana la cel mai mic detaliu, si scrierea arata un real talent in captarea pulsului epocii si a oamenilor sai. Cuvinte de lauda se cuvin adresate si traducerii semnate de Carmen Vioreanu. Paginile scrise de Grondhal si traduse de Vioreanu ar putea fi parte din orice carte buna a unui scriitor roman despre anii 80.

 

    sursa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jens_Christian_Gr%C3%B8ndahl

sursa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jens_Christian_Gr%C3%B8ndahl

 

Scena cheie a cartii este momentul in care Scott, Elena si povestitorul urmaresc impreuna pe ecranul televizorului procesul si executia lui Nicolae si Elena Ceausescu in noaptea de Craciun a anului 1989. Diferenta dintre doua lumi duce in acele momente la paroxism conflictul dintre atitudinile fata de viata ale celor nascuti de o parte si de cealalta a prapastiei care a divizat lumea in secolul trecut:

‘Ca american Scott nutrea un respect putin naiv fata de procesele de judecata si conventiile de drept nobile, cum ar fi, de exemplu, ca inculpatul are dreptul la un avocat, si nu s-a putut abtine sa isi spuna opinia ca poate a fost cam pripit, cam superficial, prea proaspat si informal, si ca ei ar fi putut la fel de bine sa-i fi adus pe Ceausescu si pe sotia lui deja impuscati la oficierea acestei parodii de proces. Elena a explodat. Ce isi inchipuia el? El nu stia ce aveau pe constiinta Ceausescu si sotia sa, asta in cazul in care ei aveau o constiinta? Nu meritau ceva mai bun si era foarte bine ca fusese un proces scurt. In timp ce ea il critica de mama focului pe Scott, eu stateam si ma gandeam la devotamentul ei aproape religios fata de Goethe, Shakespeare si Dante. Nu gaseam nicio potrivire intre acesta si bucuria ei sincera la vederea chipului murdar de noroi la cateva secunde dupa ce fusese executat. Istoria, ma gandeam eu, istoria ne impiedica pe mine si pe Scott sa o intelegem pe Elena, dar tot ea era cea care o impiedica pe Elena sa vada ca vampirul si calaul patriei sale era un om ca ea si ca noi. … Scott statea paralizat in timp ce Elena ii dadea niste lectii furioase despre cat de deplasata era ingrijorarea lui legata de faptul ca nu s-a urmat litera legii cand cuplul Ceausescu si-a primit pedeapsa istoriei. El nu era obisnuit sa fie certat, de fapt nu cred ca fusese vreodata in viata lui mustrat. … Elena tuna si fulgera … Ea era o victima si la fel erau toti ceilalti romani care se tarasera printr-o existenta plina de frica si resemnare sub jugul comunismului. Fusesera victimele unei crude nedreptati istorice si era just ca tiranul sa-si sfarseasca zilele cu mutra in noroi.’  (pag. 88-90)

Acest episod marcheaza inceputul celei de-a doua parti a cartii, care in unele momente pare a apartine genului detectiv atat de indragit de scriitorii scandinavi si cititorii lumii in ultimele decenii. Ce este insa literatura de calitate altceva decat o investigatie detectivista chiar daca nu sunt prezente in actiune cadavre, ca in acest caz, dar ni se dezvaluie treptat trecutul si viata unei femei care la 38 de ani a apucat sa schimbe tari si lumi, sa intretina relatii cu barbati care si-au inchipuit ca o folosesc si de care uneori nu a putut scapa decat plecand, o viata formata dintr-un sirag de disparitii si care ascunde puncte de plecare chiar mai sordide decat isi poate imagina initial cititorul? Personajul Elenei construit din marturii si reconstituiri, din povestile ei si ale barbatilor din viata ei, fiecare aducandu-si frantura de imagine, nu intotdeauna clara, nu intotdeauna adevarata este unul dintre personajele feminine evazive si tragice care ramane in memoria cititorilor. Cele doua parti ale acestei carti de dimensiuni nu prea mari compun un asamblu interesant si propun un scriitor ale carui alte carti nu le voi evita.

I have no luck this year with the films that are favorites in the race for the Academy Awards. Or maybe they do not do well with me. I liked almost none of the ones I’ve seen so far and I found myself disagreeing pretty much with the audiences and the critics. That was the case with ‘ Gravity ‘  with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, so it is with ‘Her’ made by Spike Jonze, a director of ambitious projects and always interesting to watch . From this point of view I appreciated the movie, I like movies that try to send a message and say things in a different way. Jonze managed to do this with ‘Being John Malkovich’ in 1999, failed with ‘Adaptation’ in 2002, and fails here again IMO, although as I said others differ. At least he does not fail for not trying.

The story takes place in Los Angeles sometime in the not too distant future. It could be 2025 , could be 2030 out there. If more films that anticipated future we deal with image pre- or post- apocalyptic future , in ‘Her’ all social and political conflicts seem to be resolved, and everything is clean and polished . This image of ‘the future if things turn well’ is filmed on location in LA and Shanghai with computer enhancements. It is significant that in order to create the ‘realistic’ Los Angeles future landscape the filmmakers filmed some of the scenes in the Shanghai of today today! Only a semi – permanent haze seems to indicate that not all environmental problems have been solved properly, although the air conditioning seems to work perfectly all the time.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1798709/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1798709/

 

As social conflicts were resolved people seem to have enough time to take care of themselves. The film heroes are not significantly different than the New York yuppies of our time – they are prone to introspection and melodrama , and feel miserable and self- compassionate in breakups . The main character of the film named Theodore (played by the wonderful Joaquin Phoenix holds a job of the future – composing handwritten love letters, of course with the help of computers. Each of the characters , each of the figures that appear on the screen even for a fraction of a second holds in its hand, pocket, or ear the devices which connect them to applications and operating systems . It is a world in which the descendants of the iPhones and the natural extensions of Facebook have become the physical and intellectual extensions of humans.

But what about human feelings?

The main plot of the film begins to unfold when Theodore buys a new operating system for his computers and appliances. Simply called OS / 1 it has not only a phenomenal capacity calculation and a female voice belonging to no other than Scarlett Johansson , It is actually a She. She also has the capability to self-learn, to continuously improve her know-how and make the best decisions for the good of its users.

When Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson are together on screen even if she is only present with her voice, when he is struggling with loneliness in the final stages of a divorce , and she in turn is un-experienced in the facts of life, but willing and able to learn more and do everything for him, Hollywood logic requires them to fall in love , and it does not matter that she is nothing but a sublime collection of algorithms – she acquires the ability to feel and to love. Love is beyond physical connection , that much we know. What the film tries to say is that no matter what we are, no matter how and where we are, as long as there is a feeling there can be love.

 

(video source Warner Bros. Pictures)

 

I will let you discover how the story ends after watching the movie. Many of the film’s fans were convinced. Some other like me less. A few left the hall before getting to see half of it . One of the difficulties viewing is related to accepting the film convention. Computers have a soul? It’s a question that was already asked by science-fiction writers since Isaac Asimov, or by Kubrik in ’2001 – A Space Odyssey ‘ one of the masterpieces of the genre. Who does not accept the existence of the soul and love beyond strictly human context will have a problem with watching this film which takes the premise very seriously. Otherwise, for these who have a hard time accepting the convention, about half of the film may seem ridiculous, because it is composed of dialogues between Theodore and Samantha (yes, that’s her name on the incarnation of OS / 1 ), that is of Phoenix and a voice from the off. Remember how you find those who spoke on the speaker phones in cars stopped at traffic lights until you are used to the fact that it is not a crazy person talking to himself in the car ?

It is not with the convention that I had trouble watching this movie but with simplistic sentimentality of the plot . What we really have here? A lonely man meets a smart girl , beautiful , and yet inexperienced in life. Together learn to know one another , she learns to express her feelings, she discover him and she understand him, she learns to love and to make love. But there many reasons that men do not understand because of which she cannot only be his. After I accepted effects and was able to disregard them (that is what the director wanted me as a spectator!) I was left with an ordinary and melodramatic romance. And the fact that I know something about the technology behind the film did not help at all in making more interesting. On the contrary .

The basic premise of the film that thinking machines would be capable of feelings, through a simple extension of artificial intelligence algorithms is in my opinion flown. Feelings are not just an extension of human logic, and love can not get perfecting algorithms, adding memory, and increasing speed Internet access.

Cartea lui Dorin-Liviu Bitfoi ‘Asa s-a nascut omul nou – In Romania anilor ’50′ (Editura compania, 2012) vine sa ocupe un loc important intr-un spatiu neasteptat de rarefiat – cel al cartilor care se ocupa de istoria Romaniei in primul deceniu al celei de-a doua jumatati a secolului trecut. Prin anii 70 acest deceniu capatase in lumea literara calificativul de ‘obsedant’. Obsedant pentru ca in conditiile politice ale venirii la putere a Partidului Comunist fusese complet imposibila reflectarea realitatii in arta epocii, numita ‘realist-socialista’ dar in fapt fantastic-propagandistica. Obsedant pentru ca multe dintre realitatile anilor ’50 se prelungeau in viata anilor ’70. De fapt, daca in literatura vremii a existat un moment de relaxare ideologica care a permis aparitia cartilor unor Ivasiuc, Breban, Goma in mult mai controlata si complet politizata istoriografie nu a aparut nimic semnificativ pana la re-inghetul declansat de Tezele din Iulie 1971 care au readus Romania la un stadiu mult mai asemanator anilor ’50 din multe puncte de vedere. Una dintre impresiile personale cele mai puternice lasate de aceasta carte este legata de faptul ca am recunoscut in multe dintre paginile si capitolele sale descrieri caracteristice nu numai Romaniei anilor ’50 si si celei a anilor ’70 si ’80 pe care i-am cunoscut si trait din plin: supravegherea permanenta, ideologizarea creatiei artistice si a presei, ineficienta economica, muncile voluntare, si mai ales minciuna ‘democratiei populare’ si a ‘socialismului’ care incerca sa poleieasca realitatea acapararii puterii de un grup de parveniti si incopententi care pastrau puterea prin demagogie si teroare, ignorand complet interesele populatiei si drepturile umane fundamentale. Dupa 1990 istoriografia romaneasca s-a ocupat cu predilectie de perioada sfertului de veac in care Romania a fost condusa de Ceausescu si de clanul sau, si numarul cartilor dedicate primei perioade a dictaturii comuniste este cu mult mai redus. Practic, cu exceptia cartilor lui Tismaneanu, acest volum al lui Dorin-Liviu Bitfoi este prima incercare consistenta si documentata de a scrie istoria deceniului obsedant. O incercare reusita.

Titlul cartii este oarecum modest in raport cu continutul ei, care poate fi descris in cateva cuvinte ca fiind cea mai completa reconstituire a realitatilor romanesti ale epocii aparuta pana acum. Pe de alta parte insa el reflecta atentia permanenta pe care autorul a acordat-o vietilor cetatenilor de rand ai Romaniei din acea perioada ca si a impactului de durata al terorii comuniste nu numai asupra generatiilor care au indurat-o ci si pentru generatiile care au urmat. ‘Omul nou’, adica omul care traieste permanent in foame si si miniciuna, care se teme de a nu fi victima delatiunii si pentru a se proteja devine de multe ori el insusi delator nu a fost creat de Ceausescu. Ceausescu insusi a fost intr-o mare masura un produs al anilor ’50 si un continuator al politicilor acelor ani. Romania ocupata si umilita de dupa razboi a iesit din matca normalitatii istorice.

Nu sunt putini cei care identifica in liniile de forta ale prezentului nostru traumele venite din matricea anilor ’50 – acest “miez radioactiv” al comunismului romaanesc. Ar fi fost oare posibil ca din ultragiul de un asemenea calibru la normalitate, la umanitate, la morala sa nu se iveasca o specie “noua”? Ar putea fi acest “om nou” reversibil?’   (pag. 10)

Deceniul anilor ’50 este descris in volum in doua ‘carti’ despre ale caror structura voi discuta imediat. Ele sunt precedate de un prolog (anii 44-49) si un epilog (anii 61-65). Notele bibliografice ocupa peste 100 de pagini la sfarsitul volumului si sunt extrem de necesare pentru a repera sursele informatiei de dimensiuni enciclopedice cuprinse in cele peste 500 de pagini de text de format destul de mare. Urmeaza o utila cronologie istorica (care repeta insa informatii cuprinse in carte, deci este redondanta pentru cititorii intregului volum, si o bibliografie grupata in sectiuni dedicate cartilor, periodicelor, surselor internetice, filmelor.

 

 

sursa www.centralapsi.ro

sursa www.centralapsi.ro

 

Prologul intitulat ‘Asa incepe lumea noua (anul 1950)’ acopera in realitate o perioada ceva mai extinsa – cea a celor cativa ani postbelici care au reprezentat alunecarea de la o sovaielnica revenire la democratie dupa dictaturile precedente si perioada razboiului, spre dictatura comunista. Sunt descrise inchiderea frontierelor, lichidarea partidelor democrate ‘istorice’, destramarea institutiilor statului de drept, acapararea puterii politice si a conducerii armatei, epurarea acestor institutii de elementele ‘reactionare’ adica neaservite noului regim, si primele campanii ale noii politici externe romanesti – cea indreptata contra Iugoslaviei lui Tito si campania ‘pentru pace’ – prima dintr-un sir de campanii de diversiune ideologica care vor fi reluate si de Ceausescu.

Prima ‘carte’ dedicata anilor 50 este impartita in sapte parti, descriind aspecte diferite ale vietii Romaniei din acea perioada. ‘Legalitatea populara’ descrie aservirea justitiei scopurilor noului regim, teroarea instaurata de Securitate in randurile populatiei si cumplitul sistem penitenciar in care Romania acelor ani a excelat prin inventivitatea si cruzimea cu care comunistii si-au pedepsit dusmanii de clasa in actiuni ca ‘exprimentul Pitesti’, inchisori ca Aiud sau Gherla, sau lagare de munca cum au fost cele de la Canal. A doua parte se ocupa de ‘Transformarea socialista a agriculturii’ si in special de colectivizarea fortata insotita si ea de represiuni si suferinte in special in randul taranilor mai instariti si a celor care refuzau sa se incadreze in Gospodarile Colective. ‘Economie planificata’ este capitolul in care aflam despre dezastrul economic in care a fost adusa tara dupa nationalizari si introducerea metodelor sovietice in industrie, inclusiv a planificarii centralizate a economiei aflate in mana unor impostori incompetenti. Partea a patra ‘Pe frontul ideologic’ este dintre cele mai cuprinzatoare incluzand detalii despre sovietizarea culturii in primii ani ai deceniului, aservirea presei, coruperea limbii, activitatea cenzurii si inlocuirea calendarului traditional cu noile sarbatori comuniste. ‘Realismul socialist’ descrie aservirea literaturii (initial tot dupa model sovietic), evolutia unora dintre scriitorii si artistii cunoscuti sub noul regim, precum si fenomenele caracteristice celorlalte arte (teatrul, cinematografia, artele plastice). Evolutiei invatamantului ii este dedicat capitolul al saselea ‘Educarea omului nou’ in timp ce capitolul sapte ‘Viata oamenilor muncii’ are in centru problema nivelului de trai (lipsurile in aprovizionare in toate domeniile, cozile) in contrast cu viata micii paturi privilegiate ajunse la conducerea tarii.

Cartea a doua priveste deceniul dintr-o perspectiva diferita – una cronologica. Este impartita in trei sectiuni, forcare ocupand cam o treime din anii 50. In prima este reluata perioada inceputului anilor 50 dar apar acum mult mai bine conturate portretele conducatorilor Romaniei din acea vreme si in special cel al lui Gheorghiu-Dej si sunt descrise luptele interne intre cei aflati la conducerea partidului si a tarii si felul in care vicleanul dictator comunist a reusit sa-si infranga toti adversarii, pe unii trimitandu-i la inchisoare sau chiar la moarte in urma unor procese inscenate folosind aceleasi metode ale Securitatii utilizate inainte impotriva ‘dusmanilor de clasa’. O parte semnificativa este dedicata Festivalului Tineretului organizat la Bucuresti in 1953, moment de relativa relaxare si deschidere prin participarea unor delegati straini, dar care a costat tara si pe romani multe luni de privatiuni pentru a da lumii ‘din afara’ o impresie de relativa bunastare si normalitate. Capitolul care se ocupa de anii de la mijlocul deceniului are in centrul sau anul 1956 cu revolta anti-comunista maghiara care a insemnat o scurta perioada de speranta si solidaritate, repede reprimata, in asa fel incat capitolul final descrie din multe puncte de vedere o reintoarcere la anii cei mai grei ai dicaturii, cu demascari si procese publice, cu arestari abuzive si reincarcerarea celor eliberati in scurta perioada de ‘dezghet’ de dupa citirea raportului lui Hrusciov la Congresul al XX-lea al PCUS.

Epilogul volumului se ocupa de perioada finala a dictaturii lui Gheorghiu-Dej, acum consolidata si fara niciun fel de competie interna. Romania se redreseaza oarecum economic, apar semne de destindere in special ca urmare a re-orientarii partiale a politicii externe fata de occident cauzata de distantarea fata de o Uniune Sovietica care incercase sa preia prin intermediul CAER-ului controlul asupra planificiarii economice. Acum sunt puse bazele liniei national-comuniste care va fi continuata si extinsa de Nicolae Ceausescu, care preia puterea in martie 1965, la moartea lui Gheorghiu-Dej.

 

sursa www.compania.ro

sursa www.compania.ro

 

In pofida dimensiunilor cartea se citeste cu sufletul la gura. Aproape ca as folosi cliseul ‘ca un roman politist’ daca nu as fi citit destule romane politiste care nu m-au captivat in aceeasi masura. Dorin-Liviu Bitfoi foloseste o tehnica a colajului care preia informatii din presa vremii sau din volumele de memorii (cu sursele indicate in permanenta, la fiecare subcapitol si uneori la fiecare paragraf prin trimiteri la bibliografie dar fara insertii de subsol). Cateodata limba de lemn a documentelor si a presei vremii vorbeste de la sine, alteori sunt necesare clarificari, majoritatea scrise la timpul prezent ceea ce intareste senzatia de participare a cititorilor. O singura data este intrerupta naratiunea pentru un scurt capitol personal (pag. 461) care relateaza stramutarea de la sat la oras a tatalui scriitorului, ceea ce ne reaminteste ca daca nu noi, parintii nostri au fost printre ‘actorii’ istoriei care este desfasurata in fata ochilor nostri. Desi cartea este extrem de bine informata si exacta in masura in care am putut eu sa imi dau seama, pozitia autorului nu este cea a unui istoric obiectiv cu tot dinadinsul. O marturiseste si ironia unora dintre titlurile capitolelor: ‘Aflam din ziare ca suntem fericiti’ sau ‘Somnul popular-democratic’.

Lipseste ceva din carte? Exista cateva aspecte care sunt amintite doar in treacat sau lipsesc cu desavarsire. De exemplu repatrierea prizonierilor romani din Uniunea Sovietica, relatiile cu minoritatea maghiara sau soarta in prizonierat si intoarcerea deportatilor germani nu sunt amintite de loc. Emigrarea evreilor este amintita in prolog dar nu si in textul cartii, si nici inceputul procesului de vanzare a acestora descris in cartea lui Radu Ioanid ‘Ransom of the Jews’ ca avandu-si originea tot in anii ’50. Este mentionata in treacat eliberarea unora dintre detinutii din procesele sionistilor dar nu exista nicio ralatare a acestor procese. Cateva dintre personalitatile istorice sunt descrise incomplet. Sunt de exemplu trei (cel putin) referinte la Rady Gyr ca la ‘intemnitatul mai multor dictaturi’ (de exemplu la pag. 400) dar nicio referinta la faptul ca a fost si poetul oficial al uneia si poate cea mai cruda din istoria Romaniei – dictatura legionara. Este descrisa in mod emotionant iesirea din inchisoare a lui Horia Cosmovici (pag. 399) pe baza insemnarilor din jurnalul sotiei sale, dar nu exista nicio mentiune despre cine a fost acest personaj destul de putin cunoscut (avocatul lui Zelea Codreanu si subsecretar de stat in timpul guvernarii legionare). Este folosita expresia ‘decimarea elitelor romanesti’ – dar ceea ce s-a petrecut cu elitele Romaniei pre-comuniste a fost mult mai rau decat o decimare – a fost o lichidare fizica si spirituala de proportii mult mai mari care a schimbat cursul istoriei.

M-am nascut si eu in Romania  deceniului care este subiectul acestei carti. Copil fiind am putine amintiri din acea perioada pe care o cunosc din relatarile directe dar si din traumele pe care le-am simtit mai tarziu si pe care le reconstitui azi in amintirile mele despre parintii mei pentru care anii ’50 ar fi trebuit sa fie anii cei mai frumosi si mai productivi ai vietii dupa ce supravietuisera perioadei Holocaustului. In locul unei tinereti normale ei au trait aceasta perioada de lipsuri, de frica, de minciuna. Intr-un fel cartea lui Dorin-Liviu Bitfoi m-a ajutat sa-i inteleg si pe ei mai bine, poate chiar sa ma inteleg mai bine pe mine insumi.

Recomand tuturor citirea acestei carti, cea mai completa si mai detaliata despre acea perioada aparuta pana acum in Romania. Sper ca vor urma si alte editii, poate cu ilustratii. Aceasta prima editie a cartii se bazeaza numai pe text, si textul este puternic, documentat, sugestiv in cea mai mare parte – dar adaugand ilustratii, corectand unele erori si adaugand unele amanunte, si poate re-editiand in doua volume mai lesne de tinut in mana la lectura va rezulta una dintre cartile de referinta ale istoriografiei romanesti, si o carte de succes la publicul interesat de istoria recenta a Romaniei.

 

 

Rama Burshtein‘s first feature film Lemale et ha’halal / Filling the Void was awarded the prize for the best Israeli movie in 2012 and yet, it belongs to a genre which is quite unique in the landscape of the Israeli cinema. Films about the life of the ultra-Orthodox community are made in the low numbers and I can remember only one such significant film of this kind, (the slightly better) Ha-Ushpizin. Paradoxically, Filling the Void was to some extent a reaction of the director to Gidi Dar and Shuli Rand‘s film, which she did not appreciate as authentic enough and respectful enough towards the ultra-Orthodox (‘haredi’) community (I did not have any such feeling when I saw their film). It took many years to the director (an ultra-Orthodox herself, quite a unique status in her community) and the effort deserves a lot of respect, and so does the resulting film as well.

 

MV5BNzQ3ODMyMjA1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTIzMzEzOQ@@._V1_SX214_

 

Let us try to make abstraction of the location (the small haredi community in the most secular city of Tel Aviv) and look at this film as to any other ‘ethnic’ movie. The story talks about the dilemma of a beautiful young girl who reached the age of marriage. In her community marriage is always arranged and blessed by the parents. There is a slight room for decision for the young woman who can meet the candidates and refuse the match if she does not like them. Not much more than this however. And there are more rules. As her elder sister dies at birth-giving, her mother takes the new born in her care, but the best interest of the family and the community is that the girl would marry the widower. The balance between duty and love can tear the soul of any young woman, but especially the one of a girl living in a community in which women’s principal destiny is marriage, and where the choice happens only once in one’s life. Eventually things arrange, as the widower is also the most handsome and most sensitive male around and because all decisions (important or small details of life) reach eventually the wise rabbi who plays the role of the ‘deus ex machina’ in the Hollywood scripts. (how appropriate this Latin expression is here).

 

(video source Mostra SP)

 

The script is far from perfect from an intrigue point of view, and there are more flaws to come. Unless the script written by Rama Burshtein for director Rama Burshtein was fully respectful to the the norms of the community she lives in she would never make the film. So there is no explicit critic or social comment whatsoever in this film, and this may make the blood boil to many feminist and not-so-feminist but secular viewers. The handling of money as a way to solve problems during the audiences at the rabbi may be considered kind of a satire, until you know that this is actually the way a Purim custom is enacted at the rabbinical courts. The lack of social comment is replaced by a painful attention to the details of the rituals and life of the community and the individuals living within. Rama Burshtein succeeds to create many charming moments of true cinema, either by unusual camera angles (the scene of the circumcision), by elaborate costumes and authentic setting, or by directing a team of actors, many of them non-religious (like Hadas Yaron and Yftach Klein in the lead roles) into the details not only of the tradition that the characters represent and of the emotions that they feel.

There is a lot of curiosity and openness from the non-religious or not-so-religious sectors of the Israeli society towards the lives and feelings of the ultra-Orthodox community and this is reflected also by the success of this film. Rama Burshtein is a talented film maker but taking into consideration her community and style of life I wonder if there will be a second film at this level of achievement – because despite its flaws ‘Fill the Void’ is an achievement in its own way.

‘Mr. Brooks’ is a curious combination. The casting succeeds to bring together on screen a few big stars just a fraction of second after the peaks of their careers (5 or 10 years before 2007 this film would probably have been to expensive to make because of the salaries of the actors). Set in the very urban landscape of Portland, it has a very ‘big studios’ look which combined with a story that seems to walk dangerously on the edge of melodrama made me think for a while that this will not be the last-viewed-in-2013 film I asked for. However, some place in the middle of the film the several rather conventional parallel threads start making sense and enhance the effect of each other. This seems to be the merit of director Bruce A. Evans  who is also the co-writer of the script which seems to have been long in cooking and not easily accepted by the studios. For some good reasons from their point of view, which may be part of the reasons I liked it.

 

www.imdb.com/title/tt0780571/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0780571/

 

The story: Successful businessman Mr. Brooks (Kevin Costner) has it all (prosperous business, beautiful wife, loving daughter in college, the villa of anybody’s dreams) but also a double life. He kills at night, he is actually a serial killer who murders because of an addiction, and does it in the same quite, smart and organized manner he is running his business and his whole life which allows him to never get caught. He would quit killing but his dark side alter-ego would not let him (William Hurt), he is even some kind of Catholic praying to avoid sin all over the film. When he eventually makes one mistake the police-woman in charge with his case (Demi Moore) gets dangerously close, and a young pervert who photographed his last murder blackmails him into becoming his partner. Things get even more complicated, as the police-woman is entangled in an ugly divorce, and Brook’s daughter is in deep trouble having inherited some of her dad’s night habits. Will he be able to solve all these? Will he use the big talent we all know he has – being a serial killer?

 

(video source Movieclips Classic Trailers)

 

I will not tell more because there is much to enjoy in this film and I would not like to discourage folks who happen to read this. I will just say that not only things come together surprisingly well from a story line point of view and the whole is much better than the parts, but that we also end as viewers by understanding the actions of the hero and to some extent sympathize with him (although in real life we would not have any reasons to do it). Kevin Costner’s acting is certainly part of the reason, and having him paired with William Hurt creates a couple with a formidable magnetism. Demi Moore also makes best of a role which is usually schematic in many movies but proves here to be more complex than expected. The telling of a disturbing story in a fluent and intelligent manner combined with the mid-high class setting makes for highly efficient cinema. It’s like when you taste a meal and it is spicy and surprising although you know it was prepared from many banal ingredients you can find in any supermarket. Bruce A. Evans is very scarce in his directing experiences. This film made in 2007 is actually only his second film, the first one was made in 1992! I really hope that we’ll not have to wait another 15 years to elapse until his next.